Like most people, when I went to bed on the night of July 23, I knew that it had rained and the night was stormy. So when I got a call that woke me up on July 24 asking if I needed help cleaning out my basement, I was taken aback.

In the 21 years I have lived in my home, I have flooded only twice before. The first time was about a year after I moved in and then again in 1996. This time, I got more water than I have ever seen, and it must have stood in my basement for hours.

The flooding of my basement has been a slight blessing in disguise. After years of becoming the place where we put the stuff we didn’t just want to throw out, so much stuff got ruined by the sewer water that backed up, I was forced to make decisions about things I had been putting off for years. I am about 85 percent done with cleaning up from the storm, and it has been very hard work.

Storm damage has been the constant subject of the townhall meetings Congressman Danny Davis has been hosting all over town. I have witnessed angry homeowners, upset with all the damage their property and personal possessions have undergone. Davis has had the FEMA representatives out to talk, but if there is truly anger about the flood and the damage, it should be directed at the city.

Everyone by now should know the FEMA number (1-800-621-3362) to call and put in their claim. I am hearing that people are learning FEMA will not cover everything damaged by the flood. Many people, like me, lost furniture. I had bookcases that I bought when I was 16 years old from the Montgomery Ward catalog store on Chicago Avenue. Those bookcases had survived at least seven moves, but the sewage water that backed up into my basement did them in.

I have spent the last four weeks working on my basement as time permitted. Fortunately, the water that drained out didn’t leave an odor, but still I had to start to clean and sanitize everything because it was sewer water.

I started with my storage room. Fortunately, it is filled with those storage shelves that are metal with particle board shelves. I found so much stuff in there that didn’t get touched by the storm water but made me realize I will have to host a yard sale before the end of summer. As I worked on my basement, throwing out the various items that I no longer wanted, there were tears in my eyes when I opened the metal file cabinet to discover all my children’s school pictures that I had filed away got wet and damaged.

It is mentally taxing to have to sort through so many of life’s treasures. I was amazed that the Christmas Wrapping paper plastic bins had a hole that allowed the water to seep in and held it inside. Tossing out wrapping paper, thankfully, isn’t as heartbreaking as tossing those pictures out.

One of the few things I had done in the past and forgot to do for the filing cabinet was to build stands for everything to sit on. I normally use a 2 x 4 and build a base the exact dimensions of the item and then cover it with some plywood. I have even stained the stand to match the item so it doesn’t look out of place. Since both my basement refrigerator and filing cabinets didn’t have one, I have another project to undertake in the coming days.

Last week I wrote a column asking people to attend the City of Chicago’s Budget Hearing Meetings. After writing that column and sending it off to this paper, the city announced that the hearing had been postponed until September. Everyone should be done cleaning and assessing their basement by the time those meetings are held, and I hope that the two held on the West Side will be filled to capacity with residents seeking relief from the city. If the city can’t compensate us for our losses, the least they can do is freeze our taxes so that in this rough economy we can have some relief in order to purchase and replace all the items we lost in the flood.

Budget hearing locations

  • Sept. 9: South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Drive

  • Sept. 10: Westinghouse College Prep, 3223 W. Franklin Blvd.

  • Sept. 16: North-Grand High School, 4338 W. Wabansia Ave.